Christine's Sourdough Starter Guide

Recipe

Recommended Kitchen Equipment

Before you get started, make sure you have all the right equipment. I try to provide alternative solutions throughout this guide to require as little specialty equipment as possible. I mark required items below with two asterisks (**) and highly recommended items with one asterisk (*).

Suggested Baking Schedule

One of the things that intimidates a lot of people when it comes to making sourdough is the amount of time it takes from beginning to end. Preparing to bake does take a little prior planning, but executing the plan is not very difficult.

It typically takes me 48 hours from start to finish of making a batch. Below is a sample schedule I use, but you can take this as a rough guideline and adjust it to fit best within your schedule. This article provides some great alternative options as well.

Friday

10 PM:

  • (Not always necessary) – take starter out of the fridge, feed and rest overnight

Saturday

10 AM:

  • Activate starter

2 – 5 Hours later:

  • Once starter has at least doubled, do a float test to make sure it is ready
  • Mix the flour and water together, autolyse for 1 hour

1 Hour later:

  • Fold starter and salt into dough until mixed well. Rest 30 minutes.

30 Minutes later:

  • Stretch and fold process every 30 minutes for 2 hours

2 Hours later (typically around 4-6PM):

  • Place the dough in fridge to bulk ferment overnight

Sunday

10 AM:

  • Take dough from fridge, rough shape and fold, bench rest 30 minutes

10:30 AM:

  • Shape the dough, put into proofing basket for 2-4 hours

2 – 4 Hours later:

  • When dough passes poke test, it is ready to bake
  • Baking takes ~45-60 minutes

1 Hour later (typically around 2-4 PM):

  • Remove loaf from oven and let cool minimally 1.5 hours, but I recommend at least 4 hours. Following this schedule, you should be able to serve bread for dinner.

Baking Instructions

Ingredients

Included in your kit (if you purchased a sourdough starter kit):

  • 75g sourdough starter – your kit comes with 50g, but will grow to 150g after your first feeding
  • 50g high protein bread flour – for feeding your starter, marked “For Feeding”
  • 500g bread flour mix – marked “For Loaf”

You will additionally need:

  • 10g sea salt
  • 375g room temperature water
  • Additional flour for dusting

Process

These instructions will allow you to make one medium sized loaf of sourdough bread. For a beginner baker, some of the instructions may be hard to understand. I highly recommend watching a couple videos to see these techniques being demonstrated - I have provided a couple suggestions on the resources page.

  1. If your starter is healthy and active, you can skip to the next step.

    If you're starting with a "sluggish" starter (see How to Know if Sourdough Starter is Ready for Baking), or if you're not sure, it would be best to provide an additional feeding to your starter the night before you start the remaining process below (see "How to feed your starter" section below).

  2. The morning of starting your bake, feed your starter with the high protein bread flour marked with "For Feeding" (see "How to feed your starter" on the Sourdough Starter page). After 2-5 hours, check to see if your starter is properly activated - see "How to Know if Sourdough Starter is Active" section below.

  3. In a large bowl, with a dough whisk, mix 500g flour (marked "For Loaf") and 375g water until just fully combined. If you do not have a dough whisk, you can just use your hands. Loosely cover with some plastic wrap, and let the dough sit for 1 hour. This will allow the gluten bonds to form and other magical things that happen in what is called the autolyse process.

  4. Add 75g of starter, 10g of salt to your dough, and fold everything in until fully incorporated. You can use a stand mixer with the dough hook if you'd like. Loosely cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

  5. Do stretch and fold process 4 times over the next 2 hours - about 30 minutes apart.

    Each set of S&F includes 4 folds - one each at the North, South, East and West sides of the dough. Wet your hands to help prevent sticking, then lift the North side of the dough with both hands and stretch the dough up high enough until you can fold it over completely to the other side of the dough in the bowl. Rotate the bowl 180° and repeat the process at the South end. Repeat the process for the East and West sides of the dough.

  6. Now it is time to bulk ferment your dough. You will see in my recommended baking schedule that I always do this part overnight in the fridge. But if you are more of an early riser and have enough time left in the day, you can choose to bulk ferment at room temperature for 2-4 hours. Otherwise, cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap so it will not dry out, and place inside the refrigerator.

  7. Once bulk fermentation is complete, it's time to pre-shape your dough. Turn dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly dust your hands with flour as well to help prevent sticking. Using a bench scraper, lightly turn the dough on the work surface while pulling the dough towards you until the dough is roughly the shape of a round circle. Bench rest 30 minutes, uncovered.

  8. Dust your work surface and hands with flour, then begin shaping the dough by grabbing the bottom of your round dough, stretch it back towards your body, then up and over about 2/3 of the way to the top. Then grab the left and right sides of the dough and fold them into each other. Grab the top of the dough and start stretching and folding it down towards the bottom until have a tight ball of dough. Turn the entire ball upside down so the seams are at the bottom. Let rest on the bench for a few minutes to allow the seams to seal.

  9. If you do not have a banneton, you can create a proofing basket by placing a tea towel in a medium sized bowl. Generously flour the lining of your proofing basket - it's important not to skimp here because you don't want your dough to stick to the linen while it's proofing. Scoop the dough up swiftly with your hand and bench knife and place into the proofing basket seam side up.

    Generously flour the top and sides of the dough to help prevent sticking. Loosely cover with a tea towel.

  10. Now it is time to let your shaped dough proof. If it is getting late in the day or you are short on time, you can place your dough in the fridge overnight to proof. Otherwise, let sit at room temperature for 2-4 hours.

  11. The dough is ready to bake when poking it leaves a slight dent. The baking process differs a bit depending on what equipment you are using:

    Dutch oven:

    1. Sometime about 60-90 minutes before you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 550°F.
    2. Place Dutch oven in oven and allow to preheat for 30-60 minutes.
    3. Turn your dough over onto a piece of parchment paper that will fit at the bottom of your Dutch oven
    4. Dust off the excess flour
    5. Score the dough with a bread lame or a sharp knife
    6. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes
    7. Take the lid off the Dutch oven
    8. Turn oven down to 450°F and continue baking for 20-25 minutes or until your loaf reaches a nice golden brown that you like.

    Pyrex pie dish and matching Pyrex bowl:

    1. Preheat the oven to 450°F
    2. Lightly flour the top of dough in proofing basket
    3. Turn the proofing basket upside down over a Pyrex pie dish
    4. Dust off excess flour
    5. Score the dough with a bread lame or a sharp knife
    6. Cover the pie dish with a Pyrex bowl of the same size - this essentially allows us to emulate a Dutch oven
    7. Bake with the “lid” on for 25 minutes
    8. Take the "lid" (Pyrex bowl) off and bake for another 25 minutes or until crust reaches desired color

    “Steam” Method:

    1. Place a roasting tray on the floor of your oven
    2. Preheat the oven to 450°F
    3. Turn your dough over onto a heavy-duty baking sheet (or pizza stone)
    4. Dust off the excess flour
    5. Score the dough with a bread lame or a sharp knife
    6. When placing the loaf into the oven, pour about 2 cups of hot water onto the baking sheet at the bottom. This will help to create the steam environment needed to cook the bread.
    7. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until crumb reaches a desired color
  12. Remove loaf from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely, or at least 90 minutes to allow the loaf to settle.